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Rant: The WPT's New Shot Clock is Exactly What Poker Needs
Poker can be boring. Excruciatingly and mind-numbingly boring.
If you're unlucky enough to be seated on a table of mutes then you're in for one hell of a dour day.
It’s the characters that make poker a spectacle, not the game.
That’s not to say that there aren’t any magic moments in poker. There are.
But can you imagine how much crap lies on the cutting room floor in the search for a few specks of gold dust?
We Are Nothing Without Tension
The World Poker Tour editing team knows this only too well.
They have been the standard bearers for televised poker for over a decade, and as a result, also have the responsibility for taking our game to a global audience.
They need to do everything in their power to make poker more interesting for the people -- otherwise it dies on its arse. We are nothing without tension, excitement and heart-thumping moments.
This is why the WPT's plan to introduce a shot clock should be supported by every member of the poker community, bar none.
Why has it come to this? Why can’t the players be trusted to police their own game?
Before I analyze this you need to understand that the extremely crucial decisions that players have to make are not slowing our game down. In fact these lengthy decisions do make great television because they create suspense.
It’s the failure to act in time to a very bog standard decision that has brought our game to its knees in despair.
People Mimic People
So how has this happened?
One thing that I've learned through watching thousands of hands of live tournament poker is people mimic people. It’s a sub-conscious way for people to fit in.
From their facial expressions, the way they place their chips into the pot, the way they muck their cards, the way they riffle their chips, the way they scratch their crotch. They all try to fit in by copying the actions of those around them.
This is why the game is so goddam slow.
People copy other players who take their time because they think “Man if I move too quick these guys will know I'm a fish. They'll see right through me and believe I don’t really know what I'm doing because I'm not taking my time to figure things out.”
And so with the monkeys in their brains banging away at the cymbals they take their time over a simple decision and then fold their hand. There are even players who take 30 seconds to stare at everyone at the table before they even look at their hand.
We Will All Breathe a Collective Sigh of Relief
People adapt to their surroundings by fitting in. It’s a tribal thing and you will see it everywhere you look from the school playground to the way we dress to the way we style our hair.
There are many more white sheep than those that are black believe you me. So what happens when we introduce a shot clock and speed things up?
Will people turn to jelly? Will they fall apart? They will adapt.
Take Yevgeniy Timoshenko for example. Anyone who has watched Timoshenko play knows he likes to take his time.
Does this mean he cannot make a decision in 30 seconds? Of course he can, but he isn’t used to doing it because he's always had the luxury of time.
So what happens when you take time away from Timoshenko? Well, at the Aussie Millions $100,000 Challenge there was a 30-second shot clock and Timoshenko beat everyone for the AUD $2m first prize.
People won’t fall apart. They will breathe a collective sigh of relief and think, “Thank God I don’t have to keep up this ridiculous charade any longer.”
Players will start to make their decisions quicker and everyone will follow suit.
The shot clock will come into play, the players will make their decisions quicker, the dealer will be able to get more hands in per hour, the players will enjoy the game more, the viewer at home will get a lot more action and suspense and the environment will benefit with a reduced mess on the cutting-room floor.
Kudos to you, World Poker Tour.